December 17, 2014


NY: NY State Official Raises Alarm on Charter Schools – And Gets Ignored. Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools. One of New York state’s top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found “practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst” at some charter schools. . . . Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified,” he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. “Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities.” It’s a plea that Grannis has made before. Last year, he sent a similar letter to the state’s major charter-school regulators – New York City’s Department of Education, the New York State Education Department, and the State University of New York. He never heard back from any of them. “No response whatsoever,” Grannis said. Not even, he added, a “‘Thank you for your letter, we’ll look into it.’ That would have been the normal bureaucratic response.” ProPublica

NJ: On privatization, Gov. Christie should practice, not preach, government transparency: Opinion. . . Look no further than the deal he cut to privatize the country’s most successful lottery, worth $2.7 billion in yearly sales. . . .The “winning” bidder was a joint venture called Northstar New Jersey, which includes GTECH Corp. The politically astute lottery operator hired two of Christie’s closest confidantes to see the bid through: the law firm of David Samson, who led the governor’s transition team, was paid millions for lobbying . . . GTECH is on record as a $100,000 donor to the Republican Governor’s Association while Christie was chair – and after the governor agreed to lower the company’s first-year revenue target, benefiting the company and costing New Jersey taxpayers. In his absolute veto of legislation that establishes guidelines and increases accountability in privatization deals (S-770, A-2873) the governor slammed the door on a bill that would have created sorely needed transparency and accountability in contracts that turn government services like the state lottery over to a private agency. If this bill was law, the governor’s flawed lottery deal wouldn’t have happened.

MO: Toll road proposal could add $20 to cost of drive across Missouri. A toll road proposal for Interstate 70 could result in an additional $20 in tolls for people driving between St. Louis and Kansas City. KMBC Kansas City

TX: State Road Officials Balk at a Few Straight Questions About that “Blacklands” Toll Road. Sooner or later we’re going to find out who’s really pushing behind the scenes for that private “Blacklands” private toll road they want to build northeast of Dallas from Rowlett to Greenville. And I don’t mean the private dudes who want to build it for profit. I mean who in local government has been carrying their water. Dallas Observer (blog)

VA: Tolling group: Va. express lanes ‘a glimpse into the future’. New toll lanes on Interstate 95 in northern Virginia are “a glimpse into the future” of transportation funding, the group that lobbies for more tolling on U.S. roads in Washington is arguing. . . . Tolling advocates have pushed Congress to lift a current ban on states placing tolls on existing highway lanes as lawmakers have struggled to come up with new ways to finance infrastructure construction in the U.S. . . Opponents of expanding tolling in the U.S. have pushed back against the idea of easing the restrictions on existing highways, arguing that charging drivers for roads that are currently free will result in increased traffic on alternative routes.   The Hill

LA: Rewritten LSU hospital deals still pending in federal review. . . Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU-run hospitals without first getting needed federal approval. The privatization deals rely on federal Medicaid money to work. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services refused financing plans for the six privatization arrangements in May, so the state reworked the contracts. Shreveport Times

KS: Kansas child support and cost to collect it fall. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is reaffirming his support of a privatized child support system, arguing that costs have declined. He also said overall results have been good. . . . His comments come after The Capital-Journal revealed in November that collections have fallen since privatization, with the percentage of current support collected at a 14-year low. The paper obtained data about child support collections through an open records request. The data show the state is collecting the smallest percentage of current support due since 2000. . . . Kansas also is doing a worse job post-privatization in another key area: collection on late support. The collection percentage on arrears (support past due) fell to a 13-year low. For FFY 2014, the percentage stood at 60.14 percent. Topeka Capital-Journal